A doubly magic discovery

The nucleus of zirconium-80 is lighter in mass than its 40 protons and 40 neutrons. The missing mass is converted into binding energy. The nucleus is held together by binding energy. The facility for rare radioactive beams.

The case of the missing mass of zirconium-80 has been solved by a team of researchers.

They also broke the case. NSCL's unparalleled ability to create rare isotopes and analyze them allowed experimentalists to show that the atom is lighter than expected. The missing piece was accounted for using advanced nuclear models and novel statistical methods.

The interaction between nuclear theorists and experimentalists is a coordinated dance, according to Alec Hamaker, a graduate research assistant at FRIB and the first author of the study. Each takes turns leading and following the other.

Ryan Ringle, a senior scientist at the FRIB Laboratory, said that theory can sometimes make predictions ahead of time and that experiments can find things that weren't expected. Ringle is an associate professor of physics in the College of Natural Science.

He said that pushing each other results in a better understanding of the nucleus, which makes up everything that we interact with.

The story is bigger than one nucleus. The Office of Nuclear Physics in the US Department of Energy Office of Science supports a nuclear science user facility.

Nuclear scientists from around the world will have the chance to work with FRIB's technology to create rare isotopes that would be impossible to study elsewhere. They'll have the chance to work with experts from FRIB to understand the results of those studies. Scientists can use that knowledge to make more sense of the universe and improve cancer treatments.

Ringle said that as we move forward into the FRIB era, we can do more measurements. We can push further. There's enough capability to keep us learning.

The nucleus of zirconium-80 is really interesting.

NSCL's specialty is making rare nuclei, which is a tough nucleus to make. Ringle, Hamaker, and their colleagues were able to determine its mass with unprecedented precision because the facility produced enough zirconium-80. They used a Penning trap mass spectrometer in the Low-Energy-Beam and Ion Trap to do this.

"People have measured this mass before, but never this precise," Hamaker said. That revealed some interesting physics.

Ringle said that when they make mass measurements at this precise level, they are actually measuring the amount of mass that's missing. The mass of a nucleus is more than the sum of the two elements. There's missing mass that holds the nucleus together.

This is where one of science's most famous equations can be found. The E and m are symbols for mass and the C is for the speed of light. This means that mass and energy are the same, although this only happens in extreme conditions.

When a nucleus has more binding energy, it will have more missing mass. That helps explain the situation. The binding of the nucleus was even stronger than expected.

This meant that the theorists had to find an answer and they could use predictions from decades ago. The theorists believed that the nucleus of the zirconium-80 could be magic.

A particular nucleus will often have a special number of protons or neutrons. Physicists call these magic numbers. The theory said that the special number of protons and neutrons made it doubly magic.

Experiments have shown that zirconium-80 is shaped more like a ball than a sphere. The shape could give rise to this double magicity. The scientists could support these ideas with solid data because of the most precise measurement of zirconium-80's mass to date.

Theorists had predicted 30 years ago that zirconium-80 was a doubly-magic nucleus. It took some time for the experimentalists to learn the dance. The theorists can work out the next few steps now that the evidence is there.

NSCL, FRIB, and MSU offer one of the finest ballrooms for the metaphor to be extended. It has a one-of-a-kind facility, expert staff, and the nation's top-ranked nuclear physics graduate program.

Hamaker is able to work at a national user facility on topics at the forefront of nuclear science. The experience has allowed me to learn from the lab's staff and researchers. The project was successful because of their dedication to the science and the world-leading facilities and equipment at the lab.

Alec Hamaker is the author of a paper about the measurement of self-conjugated nucleus 80Zr. www.nature.com/articles/s41567-021-01395-w

Nature physics journal information.

A doubly magic discovery was retrieved fromphys.org on November 25.

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